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Public access too government records reveals spending

By Junhan B. Todeno SAIPAN, CNMI Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 28, 2011) - When she worked at the Tinian Mayor’s Office as deputy chief of staff from January to Sept. 2010, Kimberlyn King-Hinds spent US$3,112 on 13 official travels.

She said she received US$1,047 for tickets, US$1,135 per diem, US$200 in stipends and US$730 for car rental.

"You will see travel that shows me going to Saipan for routing contracts such as the medical referral van, etc. It is a complete absolute waste but if you need something done right away and not weeks, especially with paper work requiring key signatures, you have to do it yourself," she told Variety in an email.

She said she also traveled to assist the San Jose Church with raising funds, and solicit for donations and sponsorships as well as organize a golf tournament on Saipan.

"Raising money for the church is always a good thing. Using municipal funds for religious events and the expectation that the mayor’s office provides assistance to the church especially during the fiesta seasons has always been questioned. Some call for a clear separation between state and church; others believe differently," she said.

King-Hinds said most of her travels were in the beginning of the mayor’s term when they were processing contracts.

It was a long process, she said, adding that it took the mayor’s office a month to complete the processing.

King-Hinds said the intention of her Open Government Act request is to provide the people full disclosure of how public funds are expended.

"This is about the people being given the opportunity to have a better understanding of how this and prior administrations have exercised their authority with regards to public funds," she said.

She said the Open Government Act is a valuable asset in providing private citizens with a tool to assess what their elected officials are doing and have done with regards to public funds.

"This allows private citizens to also serve as a ‘check and balance’ to the government," she added.

Her Open Government Act request covers expenditures of all Tinian officials, including the former mayoral administration.

Former Saipan municipal council member Felipe Q. Atalig’s Open Government Act request is for documents detailing the expenditures of incumbent Mayor Ramon M. Dela Cruz.

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